Today, the education ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania discussed the provision of education during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and possibilities for returning to school in autumn as normal as possible.
“As education ministers we must admit that the greatest challenge during COVID-19 crisis are not only learning gaps, but also mental health of students and teachers. However, there are no universal solutions to address this, rather we need personal approach and assess what works and what does not,” said Liina Kersna, the minister of education and research of Estonia. Baltic ministers jointly agreed that rapid solutions are needed and recognized Estonia’s initiative for summer learning camps for students.
Kersna noted further that three Baltic countries have close relationship and similar education systems offer very good opportunity to exchange experiences and learn from each other. Kersna introduced various Estonia’s measures aimed at mitigating the impact of crisis. 6 million euros have been allocated for summer learning camps aimed at improving the mental health and increasing joy from learning. Another 6 million euros have been allocated for general education schools to provide additional support for students. A million euros have been allocated to purchase 2600 laptops for lending to students and another million euros for improving internet speed.
In addition, support for schools will continue to alleviate the workload of teachers: cooperation agreements with the substitute teachers programme and Tallinn University and Tartu University will be extended at least until the end of this year. Together with the researchers, they will also look for the best solutions for starting the school year as stable and secure as possible, including the use of rapid tests.
Ilga Šuplinska, the education minister of Latvia explained that in Latvia, the majority of students have been learning for distance since the end of October and the school year is already ending on Monday, the 31st May. She, alike her colleagues, expressed a concern about the advancement of students and their support. Latvia plans to contribute further to the digital transformation of schools by providing a computer for each student by 2025.
Jurgita Šiugždinienė, the education minister of Lithuania pointed out that in Lithuania, too, students have had to learn from distance for a long time, but as the academic year only ends at the end of June, it is still possible to address possible learning gaps during this school year. For the new school year, Lithuania has planned an additional 5 million euros to mitigate learning gaps and 50 euros per students to support mental health. She also explained that teachers must be vaccinated or ready to be tested regularly in order to continue working as a teacher.